Tuesday, May 18, 2010
For an extremely bright and accomplished politician, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal can't seem to remember something so monumental as to whether or not he actually served in the Vietnam War. Sometimes he gets it right, and many times he hasn't, as demonstrated in this video from a 2008 speech to military families, where he labeled as "unforgivable" the shameful treatment of returning veterans "...since the days when I served in Vietnam."
But what's truly unforgivable here is that Blumenthal never served in Vietnam. He received three educational deferments and two rare occupational deferments. And only when then-President Richard Nixon sought to abolish the occupational deferments did the highly privileged and connected Blumenthal pull strings to land a coveted spot in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. There's also the claim that he was the captain of Harvard's swim team, but records show he was never even on the team. There's certainly been a lot of truth stretching going on in Camp Blumenthal. Should we demand to see his birth records too?
What makes this memory lapse significant is that Blumenthal's vying for the open Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Chris Dodd. So far facing minor primary opposition, his main rivals are both Republicans: former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon and former Rep. Rob Simmons. Polls consistently show Blumenthal solidly leading both, and Connecticut remains a heavily Democratic state. But everything could change with this new scandal. The state's filing deadline is next week, and party officials could urge a more viable, controversy-free candidate to enter the race. Perhaps Blumenthal may decide to quit. But one thing's certain, these next seven days are going to be toughest of his career.
To be sure, Blumenthal is not a man who makes casual mistakes, especially when language and media are involved. He's a Harvard, Oxford and Yale-educated lawyer who's worked for Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham; former Sen. Patrick Daniel Moynihan in the Nixon White House; as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun; served in the Connecticut House of Representatives; and as the state's attorney general. It's unfathomable that Blumenthal could simply forget whether or not he's "served" in Vietnam. For that matter, is this something anyone could possibly forget?
Yes, this is a hotly contested election year, and yes, Democrats across the country are extremely vulnerable. And yes, retaining Connecticut's Senate seat is utterly critical for Democrats. But the Blumenthal offense is not about politics. It's about human decency. A violation of morality and ethics. It's about what's right and wrong, not right and left. Nothing is more despicable than dishonoring the brave men and women who proudly serve our military and who've died in battle by pretending to be one of them while having used every lever of privilege possible to have avoided serving. This sort of reprehensible, self-serving conduct is why most Americans are absolutely sick of politicians. Blumenthal ought to be ashamed of himself.